Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The danger of marginalizing regional partners in Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Anyone who has been following the Russian–American agreement must think that the Syrian crisis is on the brink of a political settlement. But that is not an accurate picture of the situation, as all the Russians could do was buy more time so that all partners would eventually get lost in a diplomatic and media maze. The Russians’ aim was to prevent a possible strike against the Assad regime.

Such a strike is not really desired by the Americans, who retain the phobias they developed during the Iraq war. But the US does want to exhaust and weaken all sides in the Syrian struggle, and the US media has been telling us this quite clearly. The point would be that then the winner, whomever it may be, would not be in a position to threaten Israel’s security.

Russia is not really in a good negotiating position, but that does not matter because America is so fragile in dealing with the Syrian crisis despite all what has been written by media representatives and analysts about Russia restoring its political standing through its most prominent—and only remaining—ally. Exaggerating Syria’s role and location in the eyes of Russia is a mere flight of fancy with regards to reading the region’s geopolitics. The Russian military bases in Syrian harbors are of no value. Furthermore, Russia, having failed to remain steadfast in protecting the Caucasus and other states under its geographical sovereignty, now can merely mount political pressure in a bid to secure a deal should the Assad regime be overthrown.

The real dilemma produced by US–Russian cooperation on the Syrian issue is the attempt to remove regional partners from the political equation in a provocative manner, even though the parties that have been making real efforts to end the conflict since the start of the crisis are all Arabs. The Syrian crisis was brought to the international community’s attention because of the historic stance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the moderate Arab states. Besides, there can be no successful political solution if regional partners are ignored.

The Russian initiative, although biased against the Syrian people being oppressed by the bloodthirsty regime of Bashar Al-Assad, has come at a politically opportune time. The initiative has exploited the hesitation of President Obama, the human-rights activist who seemed to have entered into the profession of statesman by mistake. The initiative has basically guaranteed Israel’s security by seeking to control the weaponry in the possession of the Syrian regime. It is indisputable that Israel is now safe, given the fact that Syria was never and will never be a threat to Israel’s security with its chemical arsenal—it can now only use words and slogans. In addition to this, demilitarizing the Syrian chemical arsenal will require a long time to accomplish—there are approximately 1,000 tons of neurotoxic agents distributed to 40 facilities—so Assad has been given more time to destroy his own people.

Moderate states now are in need of a diplomatic strategy different to the American–Russian discourse that is promoting the eradication of chemical weapons, for this is a political and moral mistake. The problem with the Assad regime is not only that it is in possession of arms that could pose a threat to Israel. Rather, the real crisis lies in killing over 100,000 people in cold blood—without using chemical weapons—in a manner that violated all customs and laws of human rights.

If it is true that the interest of the US and its major ally in the region lies in eradicating chemical weapons, it is also true that the Arab partners’ interest lies in protecting the Syrian people against the Assad regime and its oppressive nature, which has nothing to do with chemical weapons.

In the end, no matter how international partners attempt to maintain Assad’s legitimacy through the chemical arms eradication deal, neither the Syrian people nor regional partners will accept it. In fact, eradicating these weapons will not mean an end to Assad’s alliance with Iran or its adherents in the region, and so Syria’s issue will remain contingent upon regional balances. The American and Russian intervention may contribute to eliminating the Assad regime, but it will not help solve the Syrian crisis.